These 3 Lessons from the Wizard of Oz Will Make You a Better Leader

By Eric Spencer on January 29, 2019

Last summer I had the privilege of watching a local theater company perform The Wizard of Oz. My 14-year-old daughter played the Scarecrow, and it was a treat to see her do her thing. What struck me while watching the production, though, were the myriad leadership opportunities for the cast and crew.

I watched crew members step up and give direction to cast members. I saw cast members from the ensemble help major players remember their lines. As a proud parent, I watched Scarecrow rise and take control of the scenes where she, Dorothy, Lion, and Tin Man were all on stage together. No one expected Dorothy to run the show. Interestingly, they didn’t even expect the director to run the show. They all saw an opportunity to lead, and so they leaned in.

I had the occasion to chat with the director after the show was over, and she shared her expectation is that the kids take the proactive step and capitalize on these opportunities to take initiative. She makes a conscious choice to lay back and not rule with the iron fist of Oliver Stone or Francis Ford Coppola, thus creating an environment where proactive behavior was not only welcomed but expected.

While I’m pretty sure most of us don’t wear costumes and thick makeup to work each day, I do believe that there are lessons we can draw from this and apply to our worlds:

Leadership is not a position.

Whether you’re Dorothy or a Munchkin, the director or a stagehand, your role matters and you have an opportunity to lead. The unique set of skills and experiences that you bring to the table, as well as your individual perspective from your place on the stage, provide a range of opportunities to step up and create a better experience – whether it’s for your colleagues, your customers, or clients.

Leadership is an obligation.

We owe it to ourselves, to our peers, and to the organization to seize these opportunities when they present themselves. If something isn’t going to plan on stage, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for the director to point it out. Call it. Take the risk, ask the question, and start the dialogue.Leadership is service.

Leadership isn’t about being a big bossypants.

Shouting directives and penalizing noncompliance isn’t leading – it’s probably not even effectively managing. Relationships are the currency that we use in life. The quality and depth of the relationships that we have influence everything that we do. If we serve first, we lead better. Compassion and empathy are the primary inputs to what we call service leadership.

It took the entire production for Scarecrow to learn that he already had a brain, for Lion to find that he already had courage, and for Tin Man to realize that his heart was already pretty darn big. Similarly, you have all of these leadership qualities too, and you’ve had them all along. Just click your heels three times, and tap into them!
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